Gay Paree

From The New York Times:

Gay What a charming and peculiar bulletin from the past is this little book from 1927, supposedly written by a man famous in his day as a cultural impresario and libertine but now remembered as the husband of Colette. Ostensibly a quasi-scientific tour of the male homosexual world in France, Italy and Germany in the 1920s, “The Third Sex” is by turns leering, sympathetic, philosophical, patronizing, exuberant, impenetrable, tender and hilarious, often all on the same page. As the translator, Lawrence R. Schehr, points out, Henri Gauthier-Villars, who used the pseudonym Willy, did not “write” this book any more than he “wrote” Colette’s Claudine novels, to which he cheerfully attached his name as well. No one knows who actually put the words on these pages. Willy’s interest, avarice and curiosity, however, caused the book to come into being; we might say he produced “The Third Sex,” which Schehr, a professor of French at the University of Illinois, has translated for the first time into English. Until recently, there was only one publicly available copy of it, in French, in the rare-book room of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Whoever wrote it, this slender volume offers a fascinating glimpse not so much of exotic homosexual practices but of something much more delicate and transitory: the moment just before homosexuality became an identity, before sexual acts had been organized into the solid categories we recognize and traffic in today.

More here.